EDI in freight forwarding – all partners optimally connected

Stefan Seufert, CTO/Vorstand EIKONA AG
A room with server devices on the left side through which colourful stripes are drawn.

The date is not displayed in the correct format, the text is in completely wrong columns, and on top of that an error message flashes on the display - a classic case of digital misunderstanding. Even if the communication between the individual parties involved in logistics works, this does not mean that the flow of information also runs smoothly at the digital level. It's a good thing that there are solutions that take over this integration process and thus create a uniform logic for logistics.

EIKONA Logistics Cloud

Software for cross-interface data transfer

EIKONA Data Integration shares any information with any partner in any system - without a fixed interface.

The interaction between customers, suppliers, freight forwarders, partners and all the platforms that all participants use in their daily work is a challenge. In particular, communication and data exchange should not be a bottleneck – if all the necessary data is not available for a transport order, then efficient work is impossible. How heavy is my load? Where exactly does it have to go? When will the load reach its destination and how long will the transport take? Questions upon questions – always having the answers to these questions available and transmitting information in real time is essential for high-quality and efficient transport processes.

Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) in freight forwarding – what's behind it?

Logistics cooperation sounds like good networking and optimised processes across the board. But with many players along the value chain, the number of different data formats and systems used also increases – unfortunately, there is no one interface for transports, which makes exchange much more difficult. So how do you, as a cooperation, reconcile 120 freight forwarders with eleven different data formats? The magic word is very short, it consists of only three letters: EDI. The collective term "Electronic Data Interchange" stands for all electronically supported transfer procedures that serve to transmit data. In contrast to the former remote data transmission, which was often used in forwarding agencies, it is now possible to send information through the ether in real time and no longer just twice a day and with a significant time lag.

From EDI to API

In concrete terms, application programming interfaces (APIs) facilitate processes billions of times every day. They streamline organisational procedures and significantly increase process efficiency. This code, which regulates the access points for servers, enables the integration of external systems so that data can be exchanged easily, and communication is simplified. This ensures the optimal flow of information from all data sources without the partners having to actively engage in it – the magic runs in the background and every transport order can be processed in the best possible way.

EDI in the freight forwarding industry: interface or cracking point?

What sounds so striking and provocative actually sums up the problem well. Are the connections where different parties such as companies, suppliers and forwarders meet well-functioning interfaces or rather an unsolvable hub? In the past, lengthy negotiations were necessary to determine in which data from the source system should be transferred to which corresponding fields in the target system. Today, however, EDI software in logistics serves as a flexible and dynamic solution; discussions about data formats, fields and the appropriate syntax are obsolete: thanks to a pool of common industry protocols, the tool automatically converts the required data into the required target format, so that even short-term cooperation between forwarding companies is possible.

Electronic data exchange in freight forwarding: security first

Those who use a module for data integration benefit from the fact that it creates the appropriate connections through APIs, or programming interfaces, to transfer data from the various productive systems along the transport process into the operative software – and vice versa, of course. There are a variety of formats in which data can be available. These include, among others:

  • Fortras
  • VDI
  • XML
  • Odette
  • ANSI

A system automatically checks whether the format can be entered into the respective application and translates it if not. In logistics, scheduling in particular benefits from the integrated exchange of data, because thanks to the real-time information it can precisely allocate resources to specific orders for dispatch. But even though the advantages of EDI are obvious, it is important to exercise caution: Only encrypted transmission formats, such as SFTP, OFTP and OFTP2 or AS2, ensure that the data can be used by all parties without worry. System integration – gladly, but only in a controlled manner so that data security remains guaranteed.


EDI in freight forwarding – essential for good networking

"We have to sit down together again for a moment, something went wrong with the data transmission" – this sentence will no longer be uttered by logisticians and companies in the future. The reason for this is that all their partners work together smoothly along the value chain through integrated interfaces for transports. Once the appropriate connections and linking points have been created, it is time well spent: the value of the data increases considerably when every connected system can understand and further utilise it. This means that goods in shipping and transport processes can pass smoothly from one actor to the next because they are controlled with accuracy and timeliness across all data. The supply chain works!

Stefan Seufert
Stefan Seufert

As a design guru, the software developer delves into logistics service providers' requirements like no other. He is passionate about exchanging information securely and efficiently and thus speeding up the physical logistics process.

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